Edinburgh Zoo runs spider phobia workshops to help cure arachnophobia

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FOR many, even a mere mention of their name is enough to have them climbing the walls.

But now, a group of arachnophobes have been given a hands-on experience with some of the world’s creepiest crawlies in an attempt to make them face their fears.

The “Fight Your Phobia” programme, hosted by Edinburgh Zoo, has attracted participants from across the country and aims to help them get over their long-held anxiety towards the eight-legged creatures through a range of relaxation techniques.

The four-hour sessions feature an open forum for participants to share their negative experience of spiders and practice calming techniques before being introduced to the arachnids.

Group members admitted previous incidents around spiders had left them “trapped” in a bathroom, “ruined” a wedding speech and even forced them to “jump out the passenger seat of a car”.

Daniel Baines, 30, who travelled from the Lake District with wife Chelsea to attend the session recalled a “terrifying” childhood experience with the creatures, triggering a lifelong fear.

But he admitted he was determined to get over his phobia in an attempt to avoid passing it on to one-year-old daughter, Heidi.

He said: “I remember my Mum wrapping me in a towel when I was a toddler and a spider fell out of the towel and she just screamed her head off and pulled me up onto the bed, I’ve been scared of spiders since then.”

“I don’t want to give Heidi the fear my Mum passed on to me, so I really need to deal with this now before Heidi starts developing my fear”.

The creatures are introduced in secure containers by Edinburgh Zoo’s resident spider-catching expert, Gareth Bennett.

Mr Bennett, 44, demonstrated the best way to remove a spider from the home using the traditional ‘glass and paper’ method.

And those feeling more confident around the creatures can then opt to challenge their crippling fear head-on by holding a Money Spider in the palm of their hand.

In 2018, figures released by YouGov found a fear of spiders was the most commonly held phobia in the UK, beating heights and confined spaces to the top spot.

It is estimated around a quarter of the population have a fear of the eight-legged creatures.

Course member Edith Bovo, 23, said: “Before I did this, seeing a spider woud make my skin crawl, I feel nervous if I think about it too much.”

“My heart was beating so fast, my hands were shaking, but there was something quite empowering in catching the spider, especially with a group of people who were cheering you on.”

Daniel added: “It is amazing really, I went in petrified of spiders, I would rate my fear at about a nine before and now I’d say it’s around a four.”

“There is absolutely no way I would ever have been able to catch a spider before this. I’ve got a bottle of champagne waiting to celebrate with tonight.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com